TREATISE ON ZANDTAO
Suffering from Addiction
To follow the Path is to be free from suffering, this statement is almost a tautology to me. To be compassionate is also to wish that all are free from suffering, so in all that I have spoken of in the treatise so far I am hoping that you will be free from suffering if you follow the three tenets of Zandtao.
The immediate response from many is that some of the things that I have suggested are austere. What about the diet? Won't we suffer if we eat the way that was suggested earlier? I will miss my meat, fish and chips, the pizza, the gourmet cheeses, whatever. Then we will miss the alcohol or the drugs. The list goes on. This is hard to answer unless you try it. I enjoy my food now more than I ever have in my life. Except for occasions. OK I can remember some very nice pasta dishes I used to make. I've eaten out and had nice meals as well. But I've sat at home and eaten "ordinary" food and not enjoyed it. Now I enjoy the food I eat, I suspect my body wants it because it is looking for sustenance, previously it could not have guaranteed that - with all the toxins that I ate. I can remember nights on the sauce vaguely, going to pubs where there was a nice venue with friends, and there would be a good atmosphere. Looking back I think I enjoyed that- vaguely. And that was when I wasn't drunk, some drunken nights there is a vague recollection of it being good but when I try to remember I cannot remember what made me happy. Except that the drink made me kind of dumbed down so that I could enjoy the mindlessness of the booze and atmosphere without questioning what I was doing.
Now I go to the beach. I look at the sea or the palm trees and I think how beautiful they are - that makes me happy. I read a book and it makes me think about the Path, something falls into place - that makes me happy. I write a blog that no-one reads and after finishing I feel good - even though I am disappointed that no-one reads it. I am lucky that the years of conflict in teaching have left me with sufficient money to be able to live modestly in one of the world's cheaper countries. Other people look for more, that is their choice, but in truth I think they look in the wrong direction and it doesn't interest me. But it doesn't have to be the beach, there are people who live up mountains and they are happy.
Now I live alone on my savings and pension, and I feel that "aloneness" contributes to my happiness. But living alone is my choice, it is not for everyone. But once you live with someone much depends on the relationship and perhaps family. Having tried it I find it unacceptable to have my happiness depend on someone else. Now the four agreements come in and help with relationships – app A. Let's consider the first of these - "Be impeccable with the word". I could imagine this is so difficult in a relationship with all the emotion flying around, with your happiness dependent on another. But you can try. If you concentrate on speaking well of each other then surely the relationship will be better. For myself I see this problem in gossip, gossip is so hateful. People discuss others without knowing (and even if you know should you do it?), then people discuss the discussion, and soon one person’s invention affects the individual concerned. Gossip is horrible stuff. In relationships out of frustration I would discuss my partner, this was never healthy either; it was an escape valve for me but never good for the relationship. Impeccable with your word.
We can even turn the word against ourselves. I look fat etc. If we are negatively self-critical then we create a poor image of ourselves that we can never live up to. This then leads to personal frustration that we transfer to others. Impeccable with the word to ourselves.
"Don’t take anything personally". This one is hard especially in relationships. If someone is critical of me I take it to heart too often, but it is best left alone. Our minds want to churn over these things but it is not helpful. And yet when it comes down to it, the chances are that the person made the comment out of some weakness in themselves. They were tired, someone had been bitter towards them and this comment was a knee-jerk response. If we don’t take anything personally then it’s “water off a duck’s back”. How this would work in a relationship I don’t know but if the vitriol starts and you can remain detached from it this has got to be better.
And the third agreement is something that could have helped me in relationships – "Don’t make assumptions". I was always concerned with the other, how was she feeling? Had I hurt her? This would become a preoccupation. I would imagine scenarios based around comments that I had made. But if we don’t make assumptions and ask our partners then surely relationships will go better?
Anyway enough on relationships my Path does not include living with someone so I can’t really say much about it, when I wasn’t living alone I did not practise these agreements and in truth although there were some highs relationships never made me happy. So it is fruitless for me to discuss them. The Four Agreements however make a great deal of sense to me.
Suffering is a notion that is central to Buddhism, as the Buddha developed the teaching of the 4 Noble Truths on the night of his Enlightenment. Here they are (B13) ):-
1. The Reality of Suffering--dukkha
2. The Cause of Suffering--samudaya
3. The Cessation of Suffering--nirodha
4. The Path to the Cessation of Suffering--magga
The 4 Noble Truths are discussed here by Ajaan Buddhadasa.
I describe them like this. There is suffering all around but we don’t have to be caught up in that suffering. The cause of this suffering is becoming attached to desire but if we don’t become attached then we don’t have to suffer. The Buddha offered us a Path (magga) to avoid suffering:-
Two of these could very easily be the Four Agreements, Right Speech, Right Determination – "doing the Best you can". Being detached from what is being said is “not taking things personally”. Great similarities, although the 4NT asks you to do more – try reading Buddhist literature to see how much. Note when I refer to the Path I am not referring to magga although that might well be the Path for some people. I started this chapter with “To follow the Path is to be free from suffering” describing this as a tautology, many Buddhists would also see magga and working to be free from suffering as tautological.
Being attached I call addicted yet this is not the usual way that people see addiction; this usual way is like when I was addicted to the booze - I was unable to live without drinking. When you are addicted to something many see it as the addictive powers inherent in the substance such as alcohol or drugs. But what about someone we talk about as being addicted to television? Do we see them as addicted in the same way? Of course not. But in many ways they have a mental addiction, their mind requires them to watch tv. Without tv their mind struggles. How many people who have suffered from the usual addictions, alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes claim there is a mental component? I saw my alcoholism as having a significant mental addiction.
Now once I stopped drinking I began watching more tv. Once I finally kicked the physical need for alcohol, I replaced that addiction for something else. Even now I watch too much tv. Yet tv is basically escapism (and it is not very interesting) so what is happening. Addiction is a state of mind that is working against Oneness. When we waste our times on our addictions the condition of our minds is not harmonious to Oneness. Now if you know there is better state (Oneness etc)and you choose to do things which are not harmonious to that state, aren’t you addicted? So I see us all as being addicted, and that is why we are suffering.